0-50 CE · Israel · The Holy Week Series

The Last and the First

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13 Nissan • Jerusalem
· John, the son of Zebedee ·

“Peter! Hurry up with those goblets! They’ll be here any minute, and the mistress of the house still needs to light the candles!”

Simon Peter’s eyes flashed as he looked at me. “I’m pouring as fast as I can! What do you want me to do? Splash the wine all over the table?”

I huffed. Peter was impossible. “Fine. But I’m going to go downstairs and get Judith. Be sure that you’re done by the time I get back!”

He saluted. “Whatever you say, Teacher’s pet!”

I marched out the door and onto the roof of our host’s home, fuming. I hated when he called me that. It wasn’t even true! Jesus never treated me different than any of the rest of the twelve. In fact, I had managed to earn every letter of the nickname “Son of Thunder.” Sure, Jesus and I were close. Maybe closer than the other disciples, but that was hardly my fault.

At the head of the stairs, I paused long enough to calm myself. The sun was nearing the horizon, casting odd shadows over Jerusalem. I sighed as I looked at the Temple, painted in sunset pinks and oranges. No matter how many times Peter infuriated me, I knew he deserved my respect as one of Jesus’ chosen. I took a deep breath and went down to the main level of the house.

Judith carried the lit oil lamp herself when we returned a couple minutes later. Peter stood against the wall looking for all the world like he’d been waiting an hour for us to get there. I glared at him.

Judith didn’t seem to notice. Her wrinkled face brightened when she looked over the table. It was set with thirteen Passover meal platters. Each plate had a parsley sprig on it. Down the center of the table, there were shallow ceremonial bowls of salt water and dishes of bitter herbs. The only place setting that was different was Jesus’, which was at the head of the table. In front of His divan, there were a few extra ceremonial items. “Everything looks perfect for your Passover meal. You boys did a good job.”

Peter beamed down at her. “Thank you, mistress. We’ve had a bit of practice over the last three years. Although, this is the first time that the two of us have prepared without any of our womenfolk.”

She nodded, eyebrows raised. “I’m even more impressed, then.” With that, she walked over to the head of the table. She set down the lamp and lit the candles. She circled the candles with her hands three times and covered her eyes. “Blessed are You, God, our Lord, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us to kindle the festival lights. Blessed are You, God, our Lord, King of the universe, who has granted us life, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this season of joy.”¹ With that, she moved onto the next set of candles.

A few minutes later, I heard people march up the stairs. I quietly excused myself and stepped onto the roof. “Our hostess is lighting the candles,” I whispered.

Jesus nodded. Tonight, He was dressed in His best clothes, a rich matching set given to Him by a synagogue ruler named Jarius nearly two years ago. Jesus was of average height with a narrow face. He wasn’t particularly handsome– even the single women who traveled with us said so– but He always glowed with joy and peace. Regardless, He often looked sad, like He’d seen too much in His 33 years. His hair was brown and had an unruly curl to it. In fact, the only time that it looked anything better than unmanageable was when it was soaking wet. Even then, He always had a few rebellious hairs standing up in the back. His eyes flashed with an inner fire and when He looked at me, I always felt like He was looking into me, seeing every corner of my soul. Unnerving as it was when I first started following Him, I had gotten used to it over time. Now I craved it. He asked, “How many more does she need to light?”

“One or two more.”

“Men,” He called to the disciples behind Him. “Enter quietly and respectfully. Wait to recline at the table until she finishes.”

Judith moved to the last candles as we walked in. Jesus stood against the wall next to me, watching with tears in His eyes. “Master?” I whispered, “Are you all right?”

He swallowed and nodded. When she finished, He said, “Amen.” Extending a hand to her, He smiled at her. “Thank you, madam. I am deeply grateful for your service and hospitality.”

Judith blushed and bowed her head. “Rabbi, You honor my husband and me by eating here tonight. I’ll bring up the feast in a bit.”

After she left, Jesus walked to the head of the table. “John, sit at my right tonight. Judas, take the seat of honor at my left.” He reclined on His divan, leaning on His left arm, His feet stretching behind Him.

The rest of us talked and joked as we sat down. This was a holiday that we had all loved since we could remember. Since traveling with Jesus, it had meant so much more, knowing that we ate it with the Holy One of Israel. It felt holier when we celebrated with Him and more joyous. I laughed more at His table than I ever did at home.

Normally, He instigated the rejoicing. Tonight, however, He watched us, stroking His beard as we all took our places. When we quieted down, He smiled gently. “I have really wanted so much to celebrate this meal with you before I die!“²

“What?” I murmured, leaning away from Him to get a better view of His face. This wasn’t the traditional way to start the Passover meal. Around the table, everyone whispered to their neighbor. Peter, sitting at the lowest place directly across from me, and I looked at each other. His jaw was set, his mouth in a firm frown. For months, Jesus had been talking openly about His death. Every time He brought it up, my heart constricted so much that I didn’t let myself to think about it. I doubted that anyone felt otherwise.

Jesus raised His hand for silence. “I tell you, it is certain that I will not celebrate it again until it is given its full meaning in the Kingdom of God.”²

I shook my head. That was about as clear as mud. Granted, that was pretty typical of Jesus’ teachings. “Master?” Thomas said, shaking his head. “What do you mean?”

Jesus sighed. “Let’s celebrate first. Then we’ll talk.” He picked up the first silver goblet before Him. It was silver and inscribed in Hebrew:

The Cup of Sanctification
I Am the Lord. I will free you from the forced labor of the Egyptians.²

Jesus held up the cup and closed His eyes. “Blessed are You, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, Creator of the fruit of the vine.”¹ He passed it to me without drinking any. “Take this and share it among yourselves. For I tell you that from now on, I will not drink the ‘fruit of the vine’ until the Kingdom of God comes.”²

I sipped and passed the cup to Judas. As the cup passed around the table, Jesus ceremoniously washed His hands and let them dry. After Peter drained the cup, Jesus picked up the parsley from His plate and we followed His example. He closed His eyes again. “Blessed are you, O Lord, our God, King of the Universe, Creator of the fruits of the Earth.”¹ He opened His eyes. “Let us eat.”

It was so salty that it was hard to chew. Even Jesus put His fist over His mouth and grimaced. Somehow, I managed to swallow and reached for my water cup. I drank it all and gestured for Phillip to pass the pitcher my way.

“Ugh!” Peter said, reaching for his own glass. “That was the worst!”

“Yes,” Jesus agreed, His mouth finally empty and reaching for His own glass, “But that makes it all the more appropriate.” He gulped then sat up and reached for the Unity Compartment resting on the plate of unleavened bread in front of Him.

It was a curious piece bag made from a single piece of cloth that was folded and sewn into three pockets. In each of them was a piece of unleavened bread. The first time I celebrated the Passover with Jesus, I asked Him about its significance. He only smiled and said that I’d figure it out in due time. I never had the courage to ask again.

He withdrew the middle piece of bread and broke it in two. He slipped the larger part back into the middle pocket and wrapped the smaller one in a linen cloth. That one, He set on the floor by His chair. If we had any children among us, He would have hidden it so that the youngest among the could find it after the meal. But since there were none, we skipped over that little game.

He lifted the Unity Compartment round the table. With one voice, we chanted, “This is the bread of affliction which our ancestors ate in the land of Egypt; let those who are hungry, enter and eat thereof, and all who are in distress, come and celebrate the Passover.”¹

As Jesus reclined again, I sat up. As the youngest person here, It was my job to ask the traditional questions that reminded us of the reason of Passover. I cleared my voice. “Master, why is this night different from all other nights?”¹

Jesus smiled. “I am glad you asked that question. This night is different from all other nights because we celebrate the going forth of the Jewish people from slavery into freedom.”¹

“Master, on all other nights, we eat either leavened or unleavened bread; why on this night do we eat only unleavened bread?”¹

“When Pharaoh released our forefathers from Egypt, they were forced to leave in great haste. They had little or no time to bake their bread and could not wait for it to rise. The sun beat down on the dough as they carried it along, and baked it into unleavened bread.”¹

“Master, on all other nights we eat vegetables and herbs of all kinds; why on this night do we eat only bitter herbs?”¹

“It is so that we are reminded that our forefathers were slaves in Egypt and their lives were made very bitter.”¹

“Master, on all other nights we never think of dipping herbs in water or in anything else; why on this night do we dip the parsley in salt water?”¹

“The parsley reminds us of the hyssop used to place the blood of the lamb upon the doorposts and lintels. The salt water reminds us of the Red Sea and of the tears shed while they were in bondage.”¹

“And lastly, Master, on all other nights we eat either sitting upright or reclining; why on this night do we recline as we partake of the four cups of wine?”¹

“It is because reclining is a sign of a free man, and since our forefathers were freed on this night, we recline at the table.”¹

“Amen,” I said as I reclined again. Around the table, the other disciples echoed me.

Jesus picked up the lamb shank on His plate and sat up. A crease formed between His eyes as He lifted up the bone and said, “The Passover Lamb which our forefathers ate, was as an offering unto God because He spared them from the death angel.” He stared at the bone for a moment, His mouth moving noiselessly. Then He shook His head and continued with a slight hitch in His voice, “As it is written, “say, ‘It is the sacrifice of the Lord’s  Passover, because the Lord passed over the houses of the people of Israel in Egypt, when He killed the Egyptians but spared our houses,’ and the people of Israel bowed their heads and worshipped.”¹ ²

As we murmured our amens again, Jesus set down the bone and picked up the second goblet. The inscription on it read,

The Cup of Judgment
I Am the Lord. I will rescue you from their oppression.

He said, “We are privileged to thank, praise, glorify, and reverence Him, who wrought all the miracles for our ancestors and for us: for He brought us forth from bondage to freedom, from sorrow to joy, from darkness into His marvelous light, and from bondage to redemption.”¹ The joy on His face was unparalleled as He called out, “Hallelujah!”

Jesus put the goblet down by His plate and said, “Let us recite the ten plagues cast upon Egypt, placing a drop of wine for each plague on our platter to show our pity toward the Egyptians for their pain.” As we chanted the ten plagues, we dipped our fingers in our cups and splattered the wine. In the candlelight, the drops looked like real blood.

Jesus raised the second cup again. “This cup represents God’s deliverance of His people from the hand of the Egyptians. He executed His judgment upon them and did slay their firstborn.”¹ He took a deep breath and continued, “He brought us out of the wilderness, to Mount Sinai where He gave us the law and brought us into the land of Israel.”¹ He closed His eyes and prayed, “Blessed are You, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, Creator of the Fruit of the Vine.”

He handed it to me, but never took His eyes off the goblet as it was handed man to man. It was as though it meant something personal to Him this year. Whatever His reverie was, it disappeared after Peter set the cup down. “James? Why don’t you lead us in the song?”

My brother cleared his throat and hummed the starting note then sang the ancient song about God’s redemption of our people from Egypt. It was a fifteen-verse song, but the tune was happy and the lyrics were simple enough that even young children knew all the lyrics. It was also one of my favorites. I grinned at Jesus and stopped singing. He silently stroke His beard, staring unblinkingly at the Unity Compartment. If there was something wrong or odd about it, I couldn’t tell from my position. I assumed He was praying and returned to singing.

As we finished the last verse, He stirred and held up the Unity Compartment. “Blessed are You, O Lord, our God, King of the Universe, who brings forth bread from the earth.”¹ He laid it aside and broke some of the bread from the plate into olive-sized pieces. He passed it around and took one Himself. When I took mine, I dipped it in the bitter herbs. Even though it was at least two feet from my face, it smelled strong. I wrinkled my nose, concerned that I wouldn’t be able to swallow it. After everyone had dipped their bread in the herbs, we recited together, “Blessed are you, O Lord our God, King of the Universe who sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us concerning the eating of bitter herbs.

Jesus cocked His head and stared at the herbs. I wasn’t sure He was looking forward to eating it any more than I was. “Men, let us eat.” He shoved it into His mouth, His eyes instantly watering.

I closed my eyes and put it in my mouth. Suddenly, I felt like my face was on fire. Tears streamed from my eyes and snot from my nose as I chewed. Around the table, the others coughed and groaned. By the time I opened my eyes, my sinuses felt clearer than they had in weeks.

Judith chose that moment to come in with the festival meal, carrying a pitcher of water and a linen towel for us to wash our hands after eating. Servants followed her with dishes, platters, and pitchers of wine. “Are we too early, Rabbi?” Judith asked, studying His face.

He smiled at her and shook His head, wiping His face. “You’re right on time.” Judith nodded and set the pitcher and towel on the edge of the table, and one of the girls set a basin next to it.

The other servants filled our platters with steaming food like roasted lamb, vegetables, an apple salad called charoset, and other delectables that we only had this time of year. When the women left, Jesus looked around the table. “I’m sure your mouths are still stinging like mine. Fortunately, this should help with the aftertaste.”

+ + + + +

Towards the end of the feast, the other end of the table was engaged in a bitter herbs eating competition. James was banging his fist on the table, tears streaming down his face. “I’m done!” He yelled when his mouth was empty. “I give up! Phillip wins!” The rest of the disciples applauded Phillip and toasted his victory. I shook my head and laughed, not sure whether to be impressed or disgusted.

Jesus didn’t seem to be paying any attention to the game. The Unity Compartment still fascinated Him. I wished I knew what He was thinking. At the same time, I was grateful that I couldn’t. After what He said at the beginning of the meal, I wasn’t sure I really wanted to know. Unfortunately, not everyone shared my hesitation.

“Master,” Peter called. Jesus’ head jerked up and He focused on Peter as though He had forgotten that everyone else was in the room. I studied Jesus’ face. I couldn’t remember the last time He had been this dazed. “Um… I, uh…” Peter cleared his throat. “Typically, You’re celebrating harder than anyone else. But tonight… Is something wrong?”

Jesus closed His eyes for a moment and gulped. “Yes,” He whispered. We waited for Him to continue, but He didn’t seem to be able to breathe properly. He was gasping and biting His bottom lip while sweat beaded on His forehead. Finally, Jesus looked up at us, a look of pain etched on His face and gasped, “One of you is going to betray me!”²

My jaw dropped. Peter and I exchanged horrified looks. The rest of the disciples leaned into each other and asked each other who could possibly stoop to such a thing. Finally, Jesus continued, “The Son of Man is going to his death according to God’s plan, but woe to that man by whom he is being betrayed!”²

I shook my head and prayed that He wasn’t talking about me. When it became obvious that He wasn’t planning on expounding, I took a deep breath. “Master… Is it… I mean, You don’t mean me, do You?”²

He didn’t answer, which terrified me. He just stared down at the Unity Compartment, tears welling in His eyes.

“Lord, say it isn’t so,” I breathed, gasping for breath.

Before He could answer, Peter murmured, “Is it I?”²

Beside him, Matthew gasped, “Do you mean me?”²

“It isn’t me, is it?” Phillip asked.²

I barely heard them. I was too horror-stricken. My best friend and rabbi had all but admitted by omission that I would betray Him. A tear fell down my cheek. God! Please! Have mercy on Your servant and keep me from this sin!

Jesus didn’t say anything. He squeezed the bridge of His nose and squeezed His eyes shut. Tears dripped down His cheeks. Eventually, He wiped His eyes and dried His hand on His robe. He looked up at the ceiling and sniffed. Peter motioned to me and mouthed. “Ask which one he’s talking about.”²

I didn’t want to. My anxiety was killing me as it was. I didn’t want confirmation. But I wanted to know, too. I gulped and leaned my head against His chest. He still smelled like the spikenard that Mary of Bethany had poured on His head and feet six days ago. His heart beat furiously as I tried to find words. Jesus sniffed again and laid a hand on my head. His touch shot courage into me. “Lord,” I whispered, “Who… who is it?”²

My head bounced against His chest as He sobbed. He leaned forward, and I had to pull away to keep from bashing my head against the table. He reached down and grabbed the piece of unleavened bread that He had put on the floor earlier. Unwrapping it, He broke off a piece. “The one to whom I give this piece after I dip it in the dish.”² He whispered back. I held my breath, praying that He wouldn’t give it to me. He dipped it in the bitter herbs then shakily handed it to Judas. I sagged in relief against Jesus’ chest.

Judas took the bread and whispered, “Surely, Rabbi, You don’t mean me.”²

Jesus flinched. “Yes, Judas.” He murmured, “It is you.” Judas blinked and slowly raised the morsel to his mouth. He winced as he ate, but I contributed it to the strength of the herbs. When he looked back at Jesus, his mouth turned down and his jaw clenched. I pulled back, a feeling like hot lead beginning in my chest and spreading toward my stomach. Jesus reached out to touch Judas but he pulled away, so Jesus put His hand in His lap. “What you are doing, do quickly!”

Judas immediately left. I couldn’t imagine what Jesus wanted him to do. Had I somehow misunderstood what Jesus said? Why would Jesus identify Judas as a traitor, then send him away without supervision? I looked around the table. Were we missing anything that Judas needed to buy? No. Then perhaps he was doing some sort of charity?

As the door closed behind him, another tear slipped Jesus’ face. He wiped it and looked around the table, a smile playing at the corners of His mouth. “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. Children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, but where I am going, you cannot come.² But, until that hour, let us keep the feast.”

I glanced down at my plate, smeared with sauce and juice from the lamb. I raised an eyebrow at Peter. “What feast?” I mouthed.  He shook his head and shrugged.

Sniffing, Jesus rose and held up the two halves of the bread from the middle pocket of the Unity Compartment. “Blessed are You, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, who brings forth bread from the earth!”¹ He broke it into eleven pieces but didn’t dip them in the bitter herbs like He did with Judas. Stacking them in His hand, He walked around the table, handing one to each of us. Then He returned to His seat and smiled genuinely. “Take! Eat! This is My body, which is being given for you.”²

I took my piece and ate it silently, watching Jesus for further explanation. He only picked up the third goblet, which read,

The Cup of Redemption
I Am the Lord. I will redeem you with an outstretched hand.²

Staring at it, He said, “For thousands of years, this cup has represented God’s promise to redeem His people from slavery. But tonight, I am establishing a new tradition. Now, the bread and this cup is a sacrament for you to observe until the end of time itself. When you eat this bread and drink this cup, do it in memory of Me.”² He lifted it up and prayed, “Blessed are you, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, Creator of the Fruit of the Vine.” He handed it to me. “This cup is the New Covenant, ratified by my blood, which is being poured out for you.”² After sipping, I gave it back to Jesus, who took it around to each man at the table. My brow furrowed as I watched Him. This was one of those times that I wished I felt less stupid. As I glanced around the table, my confusion was mirrored on everyone else’s face. I sighed through closed lips. At least this time, Jesus was a little too engrossed in this– whatever it was– to call us out on our lack of understanding.

When Jesus sat down again, He raised the fourth goblet. “This, the fourth cup, represents God’s promise that He will again gather Israel together; He will be their God and they will be His people.”¹ He blessed it before handing it to me and I read the inscription before drinking.

The Cup of Praise
I Am the Lord. I will take you as my people, and I will be your God.²

Jesus had been acting so strangely that my heart was heavy. I wasn’t sure I could praise right now. I handed it to Jesus, who again carried it around the table and served each of the other disciples, then sat down. “Before we sing our last songs, I have a new command for you. Keep on loving each other. In the same way that I have loved you, you are also to keep on loving each other. Everyone will know that you are my disciples by the fact that you have love for each other.”²

“Lord,” Phillip said hesitantly, “You have said many confusing tonight. Would you mind explaining something?” Jesus watched him expectantly. Phillip bit his lip and cleared his throat. “When… I mean, who… uh… Which of us will be our master then?” Jesus blinked. “I… I guess what I’m saying is… It would make sense that, uh, the greatest among us would, uh, naturally be Your successor. So, who is the greatest among us?”

Peter rolled his eyes. “Don’t think for a moment that it’s you.”

Phillip squinted. “Why? Because you think it’s going to be you?”

Peter’s mouth opened and closed. “Maybe. Or possibly John.” He sneered at me and continued sarcastically, “After all, he is the–”

“Stop,” Jesus said. His eyes were cold and flinty as He stared at Peter and Phillip. He shook His head then rubbed His forehead as though it ached. “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those in authority over them are given the title, ‘Benefactor.’ But not so with you! On the contrary, let the greater among you become like the younger, and one who rules like one who serves. For who is greater? The one reclining at the table? or the one who serves? It’s the one reclining at the table, isn’t it? But I myself–“² He paused and looked around the room, His lips pressed into a small circle. He rose from the table and untied His sandals. He dropped them on the floor. Taking off His prayer shawl and cloak, He neatly folded and set them on His divan. He then untied His belt and shrugged off His outer tunic. Last of all, He pulled His under-tunic over His head.

I averted my eyes and fiddled with the bone on my plate. In my periphery, I watched Him walk to the edge of the table and wrap the towel around His waist. When I looked back up, He was pouring water into the basin. Then He came over and knelt before me. Gently, He took off my sandals and placed my feet in the basin.

“Master?” I murmured, but He didn’t answer me. It was as though He transformed into a slave who wouldn’t speak unless asked a direct question. I looked away, humbled as he washed the dirt off and dried them with the towel around His waist. Without looking at me, He moved to the next disciple. The further He went, the more uncomfortable the room felt. Peter actually tucked his feet under him.

This was so backward. The rest of us should have been begging for permission to wash His feet.  Yet the thought had never crossed my mind. It had been beneath me.

When Jesus came to Peter, He knelt like He did with the rest of us. When Peter didn’t move, Jesus held out His hands. They were shaking, and I wasn’t surprised. It was a cold night. “Your feet?”

Peter adjusted himself so he sat more squarely on them. “Master, this isn’t right.”

“You don’t understand yet what I am doing, but in time you will understand.² Let me wash your feet.”

“No!”² He boomed, then shook his head and mumbled, “Never.”

Jesus sat back on His haunches. “If I don’t wash you, you have no share with me.”

Peter blinked and presented his feet. As Jesus untied his sandals and gently lay his feet in the water, Peter said, “Lord, not only my feet, but my hands and head too!”

Jesus chuckled and stood, drying His own hands on the towel. As He carried the basin to the door, He said, “A man who has had a bath doesn’t need to wash, except his feet — his body is already clean. And you people are clean.” He wrapped His arms around Himself and stared at Judas’ empty chair as though staring through it. “But not all of you.”

He sighed and returned to His chair. Taking off the towel, He put His own clothes on and sat down, jamming His hands into His armpits. “Do you understand what I have done to you?” I shook my head then looked around the table, grateful that no one else seemed to, either. “You call me ‘Rabbi’ and ‘Lord,’ and you are right, because I am. Now if I, the Lord and Rabbi, have washed your feet, you also should wash each other’s feet. For I have set you an example, so that you may do as I have done to you. Yes, indeed! I tell you, a slave is not greater than his master, nor is an emissary greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.”

He leaned in and said, “Now listen closely. I have much to tell you, and little time in which to do it.”

+ + + + +

We had slept in a peaceful garden called Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives all week long. It was a fantastic place to get away from everyone who wanted Jesus’ attention. Tonight especially, I was looking forward to a night of uninterrupted sleep. I tucked my thumb under my traveler’s bag as we trudge on, thinking about Jesus teachings. In the last hour, He had taught us about love, His Father, the Holy Spirit, and the world. He prophesied upcoming sorrow but promised joy. He promised us troubles in the world but told us to be cheerful because He was the conqueror. Then He prayed like I had never heard Him pray before. He prayed for Himself, for us, and for those who would believe because of our testimony. Whatever that meant.

The closer we walked to the garden, the slower Jesus walked. I couldn’t blame Him. The side of the road looked pretty comfortable to me, too. Then He stopped altogether. It was so dark I could only make out the shape of Him. “Gather around. Tonight you will all lose faith in me, as the Scriptures say, ‘I will strike the shepherd dead, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’”²

I shook my head. It made no sense to me. All night He had been telling us that He was going to leave us. Why the sudden switch? If He was right and something terrible was going to happen to Him tonight, why didn’t He think we’d stay by His side? 

“But,” He continued, “After I have been raised, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.”²

Peter shook his head. “No, Master. Even if all these other fellows fall away, I will not!”

Even though I knew he wouldn’t be able to see my expression, I glared at him. Thanks a lot for the commendation, pal.

“Simon, Simon,” Jesus sighed. “The Adversary demanded to have you people for himself, to sift you like wheat! And I tell you that this very night, before the rooster crows twice, you will disown me three times!”²

“Not so, Master! I’m ready to die for you!”

Jesus continued as though Peter hadn’t said anything. “But I prayed for you, Simon, that your trust might not fail. And you, once you have turned back in repentance, strengthen your brothers!”²

Peter took a step back, dumbfounded. Phillip then shook his head and said, “But Master, he’s right. We’re not going to leave You. Unless You plan on sending us away…” Jesus said nothing more. He just turned and walked on down the road.

When we got to the garden, Jesus reached the spot where we had slept the night before. “Sit here while I pray.” He said. “And you pray, too. Peter, James, and John, come with Me.”

I trudged further into the garden with Him, hoping that He would let us sit down soon, too.  When we were out of earshot of the others, Jesus stopped, shuddering violently. That woke me up a little bit. “Master?” I asked. Walking up to Him, I put a trembling hand on His face. It was wet, and more tears ran over my fingers. He launched Himself into my arms, sobbing on my shoulder. I shrugged my hands at Peter and James then patted His back.

He pulled back eventually, wrapping one arm around His stomach and put His other hand over His heart. If I didn’t know better, I would have assumed He was trying to protect Himself from an attack. “My heart is so filled with sadness that I could die!² Please, stay here. Stay awake with me through My vigil.” He stumbled a few steps away, closer to the heart of the garden. Then He turned back to us. “And pray that you won’t be put to the test!” With that, He disappeared behind some trees.

James turned to Peter and I. “What test?”

“No idea,” Peter murmured, sitting down. “We might as well get comfortable, though.”

I sat down. Pulling up my knees, I rested my head on them. Retching noise from further in the garden woke me. I rose to my wobbly feet. “Jesus!”

I ran towards the sound, Peter and James right behind me. We found Him on His hands and knees, vomiting. I knelt on His left, Peter on His right. “I’ll go get water!” James yelled before running down the hill. Peter held back His hair and I rummaged through my bag. I always kept some linen and a small wineskin with me in case any of us needed a bandage. Tonight, though, the cloth would work to clean His beard.

After what felt like an eternity, Jesus stopped. He leaned against Peter, gasping for breath. “Here,” I whispered, handing Him the linen. He nodded and wiped His face.

A minute or two later, James returned and offered Jesus the waterskin. “Master, here.”

“Tha… thank you,” Jesus gasped. He raised it to His lips then gave it back.

“No, Master. Keep it.”

“I’m better now,” Jesus said, shoving it into his hands. “Besides, if I drink more, I’m not sure I’ll be able to keep it down.” He forced Himself to His feet and stumbled toward a tree a few feet away. Once there, He laid His head on the bark. “Go back… to where I left you. And don’t forget. Pray.”

When Jesus was at least fifty feet behind me, I settled down again. I crossed my legs and closed my eyes. Somewhere nearby, I heard Peter and James sit down, too. I had no idea how to pray, so I turned to the Psalms. “Lord, I call to You from the depths; hear my cry, Lord,” I yawned and shook myself. “Let Your ears pay attention… to the sound of my pleading.” I blinked down at the hands in my lap blearily. “O Most High, if You… kept a record of sins… who, O Lord, could… stand…” Sobs rose behind me. I turned back to look, but I couldn’t see Him. I rubbed my eyes. “I wait… longingly… for the Lord; I put my hope… in His word… Everything in me waits…”²

I woke up to find my head in my lap. I wasn’t sure how long I had been asleep, but my back was killing me. I stretched and laid down, promising myself that I would only sleep for five minutes. With that, I fell asleep to the sounds of Jesus’ sobs.

Thank you for reading part 2 of The Holy Week Series!
Click on the links below to read more!

Part 1: “Behold the Man” 13-year-old Alexander is esctatic to go to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. But what he doesn’t realize is that this festival will change his life forever.

Part 3: The Commander’s Vigil “Jesus went as usual to the Mount of Olives… There appeared to Him an angel from heaven, giving Him strength.” (John 22:39 and 42, CJB)

Part 4: The House of Judgment Nicodemus, a pious lawyer and friend of Jesus, is summoned to be a juryman for the trial of Jesus of Nazareth. As Jesus is tried for His life, Nicodemus can’t help but notice how unusual and, well, illegal the proceedings are. He wonders when the council will give up… or if they’ll succeed.

Part 5: The Sacrifice Joseph of Arimathea has been waiting expectantly for the Kingdom of God, and believes that Jesus heralds its arrival. But when Jesus is crucified, Joseph is left only with would-have’s, could-have’s, and should-have’s.

Part 6: The Sword-Pierced Heart When Jesus was a baby, a prophet warned Mary that a sword would pierce her heart. 33 years later, that prophecy came true in ways she couldn’t imagine possible.

Part 7: The Appearance As far as James is concerned, it’s the end. His brother, Jesus, is dead, and that is–unfortunately–that. But he’s about to figure out that God has other plans.

Author’s Note

¹ These portions of dialogue are quoted from the Condensed Messianic Haggada. For more information on traditional Passover meal or to schedule a Messianic Jew to present the “Christ in the Passover” meal and service, check out RockOfIsrael.org.

² All scripture quotes are from the Complete Jewish Bible, © 1998 by David H. Stern. The following passages were quoted (in order that they appeared in the story):
Luke 22:15
Luke 22:16
Exodus 6:6
Luke 22:17-18
Exodus 12:27
Matthew 26:21
Luke 22:22
Mark 14:19
Matthew 26:22, ESV
John 13:24
John 13:25
John 13:26
Matthew 26:25
John 13:27
John 13:31, 33
Matthew 26:26
Exodus 6:7
Luke 22:19
Luke 22:20
Exodus 6:7
John 13:34-35
Luke 22:25-27
John 13:7
John 13:8
John 13:12-16
Matthew 26:31
Matthew 26:32
Luke 22:31-32, Mark 14:30
Matthew 26:38
Luke 22:40
Psalms 130:1-6

Sources and Further Exploration

Articles
Candlelighting (Passover) by Chabad.org
Dayenu: Context is everything by Haggadot.com
Jewish Food: Eating in Historical Jerusalem by Jewish Virtual Library
The Seder Plate by Chabad.org
What Is a Seder? by Chabad.org
What Sort of Clothing Did People Wear in Jesus’ Time? by Msgr. Charles Pope

 Bible
Matthew 26:17-35
Mark 14:21-31
Luke 22:7-39
John 13:1-17:36

Books
Condensed Messianic Passover Haggadah by Warren and Cathy Frankel
John Gill’s Exposition of the Bible by John Gill, specifically Matthew 26:26
Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance

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6 thoughts on “The Last and the First

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